Arrivals: Shoshana Razlov

Every day at about the same time I see her sweeping up the litter.

Shoshana Razlov 88 224 (photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
Shoshana Razlov 88 224
(photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
Every day at about the same time, I look out of my kitchen window and there is Shoshana Razlov, sweeping up the litter, leaves and sand on the street. She makes neat little piles of it and then collects them all, one by one - if the wind hasn't dispersed her carefully accumulated little hills of refuse. She's been coming to work in Kfar Saba for eight years, almost since she made aliya from the Caucasus in 2000, but she's only just begun working in this area. The minute I set eyes on Razlov, always conscientious (she sweeps under parked cars), always smiling, I knew I had to find out more about her. Our interviews were conducted in pidgin Hebrew with a telephone conversation with her daughter Zena to fill in the gaps. FAMILY BACKGROUND She is one of the Caucasian Mountain Jews, many of whom were brought here at the end of the 1990s. Her mother, Rahel, worked in a synagogue, she told me, but doing what was not clear and she died young. Razlov married twice and has two children from her first husband: a son, Raphael, who lives in Beersheba, and a daughter, Zena, with whom she lives in Hadera. She came here with the second husband and buried him in Beersheba soon after they arrived. BEFORE ARRIVAL Razlov worked on the railways for 40 years, not as a cleaner but with what sounds like a responsible position, as a signalwoman and also opening and closing the crossings. She was due to retire when the family arrived here. UPON ARRIVAL They were taken straight away to Beersheba and set up in an apartment by the Jewish Agency, but relocated to Hadera soon afterward. Razlov hated being idle and when she heard about the street cleaning job, with transportation every day from Hadera to Kfar Saba, she jumped at the chance. Her daughter works as a supermarket cashier, and Razlov felt that she needed to help out with the rent and other expenses. ROUTINE Every day at 5 a.m. three vans arrive at the collection point in Hadera and transport a motley crew of street cleaners, some to Netanya and about five to Kfar Saba. They are employed by the municipality's environmental quality department through a private contractor. They arrive with their luminous yellow jacket uniforms at 6 a.m. and collect the tools of the trade, their wagons, brooms and dustpans. On closer inspection, during one of our midwork chats, it turns out the wagon has an extra compartment to put all those finds that are too good to throw away. A peek into Razlov's wagon revealed two very nice tablecloths, several plates and a worn teddy bear. Just now, with Pessah approaching, the pickings are really good. She eats a sandwich on the job, sometimes sitting on the sidewalk, and then carries on working until 2 p.m. when she turns in her wagon and joins fellow workers for the ride back to Hadera. Back home she helps Zena with the children - Ephraim, five, Gershon, four, and Rosalina ("She has my name," says Razlov with glee), three. When asked about the son-in-law Oleg, she dismisses him with a wave of the hand and one word, "Vodka." She is often required to baby-sit as Zena is very into amateur theater and belongs to a company which puts on plays - in Caucasian. Shoshana brings me the wedding photos and Zena, it turns out, is a beautiful woman. LIVING ENVIRONMENT She lives in a four-room rented apartment on the fifth floor of a high-rise in a working-class neighborhood of Hadera. She has her own small room, while the three grandchildren all share and the parents have the third bedroom. CIRCLE Zena tells me her mother is not the type to go out socializing. She has a relative nearby whom she visits occasionally and a few friends, but according to the daughter she never thinks of herself and is always around the house ready to help. Often her son Raphael comes up to visit. It upsets her that he has become very fat, suffers from diabetes and does not get on well with his wife, with whom he has two daughters and two sons. FINANCES The contractor pays his workers the munificent sum of NIS 100 a day which works out at NIS 10 an hour, half the minimum wage, for an eight-hour working day plus two hours travel. Shoshana helps with the $500 rent and points out all the other expenses - electricity, taxes and food. Clearly for both her and her daughter lack of money is a chronic problem. Her attitude to the low pay seems to be "it's better than a punch in the eye." FAITH While not able to have a deep spiritual conversation with Razlov, I did discover that the family are proud traditional Jews as the children's names would seem to indicate. They keep kashrut for example. "Eat milk, no meat, eat meat, no milk," she says with accompanying hand gestures. On Shabbat they don't travel - "no car" - but the children like to watch TV. LANGUAGE She speaks Tat, the language of the mountain Jews, and some Farsi, and her Hebrew is enough to make herself understood. "She knows it from the streets," Zena tells me. She cannot read or write in any language as far as I could ascertain, though she can sign her name. At 2 p.m. I walk down the main street with my dog Bertie for his midday outing and meet Razlov again. She is waiting with fellow street cleaners for the vans that will transport them back to Hadera. She introduces me to the others. They are mostly Ethiopians and their faces break into huge smiles, showing among them an alarming paucity of teeth. The van arrives and they pile in, each clutching his finds for the day, and comparing notes. It's back home to Hadera, leaving the streets of Kfar Saba swept and clean, ready for whatever debris will land on them until they return at 6 a.m. the next day. To propose an immigrant for an 'Arrivals' profile, please send a one paragraph e-mail to: [email protected]